(NEW YORK) — Thousands of migrants from Honduras fleeing violence, devastation caused in the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes and economic hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic are in Guatemala and moving towards Mexico, hoping to ultimately reach the U.S.

Calls were made on social media for groups to join together and leave from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Jan. 15, according to the International Organization for Migration. Between Jan. 13 and 15, 3,500 people left from San Pedro Sula, and more people joined up with them in the following days. Between Jan. 15 and 16, 7,500 people crossed into Guatemala, the IOM said.

Guatemala’s government has called on Honduras to contain the mass exit and is also calling on other Central American governments to take similar actions to prevent putting citizens at a health risk because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the government said that on Jan. 14, a “state of protection decree” was issued to control the flow of people at the Honduras-Guatemala border. But as of Saturday, they said “some groups have violated the surveillance regulations and managed to enter our territory in violation of legal provisions.”

The Institute for National Migration in Honduras said on Facebook more than 200 members of the caravan returned to Honduras and that three border controls have been reinforced.

Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement praising Guatemala for taking steps to attend to the “irregular contingent” that entered its territory, adding that Mexico supports authorized movements, but irregular migrations threaten the lives and health of both the migrating group and host populations.

In June, President-elect Joe Biden promised to reverse many of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Depending on how this situation develops, it may turn into one of the earlier immigration issues the Biden administration faces.

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